Fact: Not enough people in our generation are picking up newspapers.
Why should this matter to a newspaper if there are enough older people reading them?
Well, because pretty soon, we will become the older people, and so we represent the future generation of newspaper-readers. Without us, how will newspapers survive?
My editor took me out to lunch the other day and we got on the topic of the state of newspapers among people in my age group. Why aren’t we getting our fingers dirty in newspaper ink?
The answer is actually pretty simple: We have been exposed to the wonders of the Internet.
Ours is a generation truly raised by convenience. From birth, with every step we have learned to take, technology has simultaneously taken another one. Calculators replaced pencils and scrap paper, computers replaced notepads and pens, and search engines replaced encyclopedias and visits to the library.
Now, instant messaging substitutes for phone calls, e-mails replace meetings and cellular phones replace any other form of entertainment.
This is the world we have grown up in, one in which everything that is developed or created or discovered aims to make our lives more convenient: one less step, one less action, one less anything. And we will continue to live our lives this way, always finding the shortcut, because this is all we know.
But this lifestyle sure is expensive. We do our work on $3,000 machines, we call our friends through $150 devices, and we go from place to place in $15,000 vehicles.
Newspapers don’t fit this way of life.
Why go through the trouble of purchasing a newspaper and getting your fingers dirty when you can set a Google news alert for news items on subjects that interest you? When you can get news briefs on your cell phone every time something important happens? When you can surf the net for different newspapers’ Web sites and skim through using a mouse to click on articles?
This means newspapers will have to evolve to keep up with their readership. Readers grow and change, and in the same way, so must newspapers. That’s not to say that no one in our generation will read print news ever again – but a huge chunk of us will turn to the quickest and easiest way to get our information. Since that will likely be by computer or cell phone, these will become more favored methods.
So although I didn’t provide a real solution to my editor’s dilemma, at least we’re communicating and trying to meet on the same page. We are a different audience from the ones newspapers have had in the past, but change equals challenge, and it’s always a good thing to start thinking critically and creatively.
We’ll still get the news. But instead of the ruffling of paper, we’ll hear the clicking of a mouse.